The news lately is overflowing with concerns that social media is proving to be unsafe for some users, especially children.

But it’s not just children. Cybersecurity is an issue for all consumers, and individuals and groups preying upon vulnerable users are getting more and more sophisticated.

On Tuesday, Senators put executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat on the defensive, questioning them about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety on their platforms.

Citing the harm that can come to vulnerable young people from the sites — ranging from eating disorders to exposure to sexually explicit content and material promoting addictive drugs — the lawmakers also sought the executives’ support for legislation bolstering protection of children on social media. But they received little firm commitment.

But then there are broader questions about privacy, as well as actual safety associated with regular use of the internet. Cybersecurity is a growing industry, in part because more Americans are taking it very seriously.

Champlain College Online this week announced findings from its survey, “Adult Viewpoints 2021: The Cybersecurity Skills Gap and Barriers to Entry,” which found that nearly 80% of American adults took action to protect themselves following recent cyber events and close to 30% of non-cyber workers were willing to consider a cyber career, according to a news release.

The survey highlighted how adults have reacted to recent cyber events. From the SolarWinds breach in December 2020 to the multiple attacks in 2021 that have affected both the public and private sectors, the public’s awareness of cyber threats has increased, the release states. Among the nearly 80% of respondents who indicated they took protective measures, the most frequent actions included updating passwords or using two-factor authentication, the survey found.

“Any adult that uses technology should be aware of cybersecurity risks. Many respondents are taking action, but cyber gaps remain,” said Sérgio Tenreiro de Magalhães, associate professor at Champlain College Online, in the release.

So how are all of these concerns affecting the workforce?

The study highlighted an increased interest in cybersecurity and cybersecurity education, but it also brought to light barriers preventing potential cyber professionals from launching careers in the in-demand space that’s ripe with job opportunities, the release stated. In fact, the study revealed three distinct barriers — high expectations of prior training, lack of diversity and inclusion, and toxic work environments. Of non-cyber respondents, 54% feel that high expectations for past training or experience impede them from entering the cybersecurity space. More than half the respondents who showed interest in a cyber career said employer-sponsored training and education would motivate them to pursue the path, with 46% noting tuition assistance from an employer as a motivating factor.

“It’s clear that adults are interested in pursuing a career change to cybersecurity, which is promising given the more than 460,000 job openings across the United States alone,” said Kathleen Hyde, Cybersecurity Program Chair at Champlain College Online, in the same release.

Other survey findings were equally telling:

Lack of diversity remains another major barrier — 90% of respondents believe it’s important to increase diversity in the cyber workforce.

Wage disparities were a main challenge to diversity acknowledged by respondents — 28% believe minorities earning lower wages than similarly skilled colleagues is the main barrier impacting a diverse cyber workforce.

Of those in the field, 86% who identify as cybersecurity hiring managers indicate that the market expects entry-level cyber candidates to have vast industry experience. Overall, 72% of respondents estimate some type of university accreditation is required to enter the cybersecurity field.

Colleges are responding in kind. Norwich University, by example, has received national attention for its cybersecurity degree, and the program it provides that has graduates working a range of sectors, including government, the military, and in high-profile jobs.

Being secure online — at home or at work — is critical. While the survey showed there is a demand, it also promises a supply of workers determined to make us all safer.

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